Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd looks at how the race shapes up after the primary

Chuck Todd, chief White House correspondent for NBC News, continued his close look at Kentucky politics and the Senate race, "the marquee race in this year's midterms," on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" this morning.

Todd asked two former senators who lost partly because their presidents were unpopular, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and John Sununu Jr, of New Hampshire, if McConnell is more or less vulnerable after the primary.

Lincoln equivocated: "He's an incumbent, he knows Kentucky, he knows how to campaign in Kentucky, but she gave a great speech last night, Alison, so I think it's going to be a very competitive race."

Sununu was stronger: "Primaries are almost always good," he said, challenging conventional wisdom. "They can make you tougher, they sharpen you up, they sharpen your message." But he said "what's going to kill Alison Grimes" is what he defined as "Obama's goal of destroying the coal industry."

Lincoln replied, "I think you can distance yourself on issues that are important," including coal, and noted that the Senate has a group of pro-coal Democrats. Sununu acknowledged the example of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a big supporter of oil and gas, but when it comes to establishing an independent position on such issues, "You can't do it overnight."

In another segment, Todd said Grimes's best model for victory is to model Gov. Steve Beshear's formula in 2007 victory, piling up margins of 50-60,000 in Jefferson County and 20-25,000 in Fayette County and carrying Kenton, Campbell, Daviess and Warren counties, which went for Beshear in 2007 but Sen. Rand Paul in 2010.

Todd said McConnell made clear in his victory speech that his campaign will be against President Obama and the national Democratic Party: "One thing McConnell doesn't do is subtlety." He showed McConnell saying that there is not difference in Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid "and a candidate picked by Harry Reid," and a Grimes reply: "President Obama is not on Kentucky's 2014 election ballot. Nothing is this election will change who is in the White House . . . "

Todd concluded, "Knowing Grimes will make him the face of a broken Washington, McConnell has decided to embrace his power; it's potentially a risky strategy." But he said the question for Grimes is "how does she withstand an assault that's coming" in advertising from McConnell and his allies.

Todd will be the featured dinner speaker at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting and Business Summit in Louisville July 21.

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